You should not accept an early settlement of your claim unless you have been advised to do so by a personal injury solicitor. You are likely entitled to a greater sum than the one of offer. If so, you should reject the settlement and continue to negotiate your claim.
Has an insurance company made you an early compensation offer? Contact us at Ashmans Solicitors to discuss the matter, before you agree to anything. We can advise whether you should accept or reject offer.
How do injury claims work?
When you are injured or fall ill through no fault of your own, you are entitled to make a personal injury claim. This sees that you are compensated for your damages, including your pain and suffering, and your financial losses.
When you make a claim in England and Wales, you are known as the ‘claimant’. The person responsible for your injuries or illness is called the ‘defendant’. This could be a driver, your employer, a local authority – or anyone else who owed you a duty of care, but who failed to meet this duty of care.
The defendant is represented by their insurance company. For example, if you are involved in a road traffic accident, the other driver should have motor vehicle insurance. You will make a claim against the insurer, and if it is successful, the insurer will pay for your compensation. In the event of a dog bite, the owner’s pet insurance would cover your damages. With a supermarket slip, the company’s occupier’s liability insurance would manage the claim – and so it goes on.
It is important to know all this, because once you understand the dynamic, you come to realise that the defendant’s insurance company is not acting in your best interests. In fact, it is quite the opposite: the insurer is acting in their own best interests. Their main motivation will be to spend less money – and less time – on your personal injury claim. Insurance companies deploy a number of tactics to achieve this, one of which is making an early compensation offer.
Often what happens is that the insurer will contact you directly, asking you to accept a certain sum of compensation. Sometimes, they are quite aggressive in their approach. You may be told that you must accept the offer by a certain deadline or it will be withdrawn. You may also be told that if you instruct a solicitor, you risk getting a much lower compensation settlement. Neither statement is true.
There have even been reports of insurers sending claimants cheques in the post, along with a form to sign. The cheque is sent out of the blue, without any prior discussion. If you sign the agreement – which some people do unknowingly – then this is the end of your claim. You cannot request any more compensation for the same injury in the future, even if it is much more serious than you first realised.
What should you do?
If an insurer makes an early offer, then it can be very tempting to accept. No doubt, a cheque through the post for a couple of thousand pounds will be very useful to you. Even better, that will be the end of the matter; you will not have to spend any more time dealing with paperwork or insurance companies.
However, you must seek independent legal advice before you accept. Do not agree to anything – or sign any paperwork – until you have spoken to our personal injury solicitors.
Because it is very likely that you are entitled to more money than the settlement on offer. The problem is that if you accept now, the claim will be settled on a ‘full and final basis’. This is a legal phrase, and it basically means that once the claim has settled, you cannot get any more money for the same injury or illness. Therefore, you need to get it right the first-time round. Otherwise, your claim will settle for less than its true value. Ultimately, the only people this will hurt are you and your family.
For instance, imagine that you are involved in a road traffic accident. You think you have whiplash and you take a couple of days off from your construction job. The insurer contacts you and offers £1,000 for your pain and suffering. This seems like a lot of money and so you accept. However, your pain gets worse and a medical assessment reveals that you actually have fractured a vertebra in your neck. You now require surgery followed by an extensive period of rehabilitation. You cannot work during this time, and it is very unlikely that you will ever be able to work in construction again. So now you have to find a new career, too. Suddenly, that £1,000 seems very minimal. It will not cover your care and rehabilitation costs, your lost wages or the cost of retraining. It is also far below what should be awarded for your pain and suffering.
Reject pre-medical offers
With this cautionary tale in mind, we recommend that you keep your claim open until one of the following has happened:
- You have fully recovered from your injuries or illness; or
- You have a firm prognosis delivered by medical practitioners
This is the only way of knowing exactly how badly your life is going to be affected by your injury or illness. No one can see into the future, so it is better to wait until you know what the outcome is going to be. This ensures that you receive the correct sum of compensation – one that actually reflects the physical, emotional and financial damages that have been incurred (and will be incurred in the future).
In making an early settlement offer, insurance companies are jumping the gun. The hope is that you will accept the compensation before you have recovered and/or been assessed by a medical expert. This is known as a ‘pre-medical’ or ‘pre-med’ offer. But as outlined above, this is a huge gamble on your part. The only party that will definitely benefit is the insurer, as your claim will almost certainly settle for less than its true value. They will also have another claim ‘off their desks’, meaning they do not have to spend any more time or money on your case.
We are not just saying this because we are personal injury solicitors. On their website, Citizens Advice states that:
“If you’re injured or your vehicle is damaged in a road accident and it’s not your fault you
may be approached directly by the other person’s insurer to try and settle the claim with
them directly. This is called third party capture or third party assistance.
Insurers are legally allowed to do this. However, it’s important to know that you don’t
have to settle the claim in this way, and that the other person’s insurer won’t be acting
in your best interests.” (Our emphasis).
Citizens Advices goes on to say that “if you do accept an offer it might be lower than the compensation you would have got if you’d used a solicitor or gone to court instead”.
Contact a solicitor now
So, if an insurer has made an early offer and you are wondering what to do, here is the answer: contact our solicitors personal injury straightaway. If the insurer is pressuring you for a response, just say that you want to think about it and put the phone down. If an offer comes to you through the post, do not sign and return any paperwork until you have called us.
Our solicitors offer a free initial consultation, which normally takes place over the phone. During this discussion, we can consider whether the insurer’s offer is fair. We will make this decision based on a range of factors, including:
- Whether you have recovered from your injuries
- Whether a medical expert has written a report on your injuries
- Whether the compensation awarded for your pain and suffering corresponds with the guidelines
- The extent of your financial losses to date, and your expected financial losses in the future
Once we have made this assessment, we can recommend the best way forward in your case. If we do not think it is a fair and reasonable offer, we can take over the management of your claim. This removes the burden from your shoulders, as we can handle all the paperwork and negotiate directly with the insurance company. We will not stop until we have secured the appropriate sum of compensation on your behalf.
Ignore any scare tactics
The insurer may try to deter you from seeking legal advice. They may say that you have to use a solicitor they recommend, or suggest that you are running out of time. These are common scare tactics. You should remember that:
- You have up to three years to make a claim, starting from the date of the accident or the date you discovered your injury/illness.
- You can choose your own personal injury solicitor. You do not have to use a solicitor recommended by your insurer, or the defendant’s insurer.
- Most personal injury solicitors run claims on a no win no fee basis. This means you do not pay anything, unless your claim is successful.
- It is very unusual for personal injury claims to go to trial. Most are settled out of court
If you would like to talk to a solicitor about your claim, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors for a free initial enquiry.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.